How Water Management Changed The Landscape Of Florida


The other week we talked about the geological features that make Florida such a swampy place, and what these wetlands bring to our economy and way of life. But if you think Florida is full of swamps today, you should have seen it before water management efforts began in the 20th century.

Florida Starts Off On The Wrong Foot

While today Florida is a vacation haven and retiree sanctuary, there was a time when Florida had a pretty dreary reputation. Florida was one of the last states to be developed, simply because it wasn’t a very pleasant place to be. In the 1830s, a US Army surgeon wrote, “Florida is certainly the poorest country that ever two people quarreled for… It is in fact a most hideous region to live in.” While US soldiers fought the Native Americans for Florida, many soldiers believed that leaving Florida to the Natives and the mosquitos would be a win for America, with one general saying, “I could not wish them all a worse place,” and that Florida was a “good-for-nothing peninsula.” This doesn’t exactly seem like the place where Walt Disney would want to build the most popular theme park to ever grace the face of the earth, so what changed?

All Signs Point To Water

Water. It’s that simple. Florida just had too much water. The land was too soggy to create any valuable infrastructure, and the sitting water garnered too many mosquitos for any modern society to inhabit – especially in southern Florida that was primarily covered by the Everglades. Essentially, all of southern Florida would flood any time it rained or experienced a tropical storm. In an effort to make all of Florida accessible and habitable, the Army Corps of Engineers began to design an Everglades drainage district that would attempt to, literally, drain the swamp. By 1917, the engineers dug out four major canals that ran from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean. Later, powerful water pumps were integrated into the over 2000 miles of canals to help force the water towards the ocean, making the Everglades open for hundreds of acres of agricultural fields, and allowed for safe roadways to be constructed on solid ground.

An Effort To Save The Everglades

As the Everglades continued to drain and flooding became less of an issue, people began to wonder, “When do we stop draining?” If efforts continued how they were going, the Everglades would eventually dry up and take the entire ecosystem that thrived there with it. When the draining first began in the early 1900s, the Everglades were seen as a useless swamp that mocked settlers. But over the years, people began to see the beauty in the swamp. In 1947, president Harry Truman met thunderous applause when he stood at a corner of the Everglades and declared that draining of the wetlands would stop. It was then that the Everglades gained National Park status and became the first national park dedicates purely for its “biological wealth.”

The Fight Isn’t Over

Today, the Everglades still face major threats. From high levels of mercury throughout the food chain to pollution from agricultural runoff, today’s threat is not so much to the water levels but to the ecosystem. In 2000, Congress passed a 25-year plan to restore the Everglades to ensure their longevity. And while early developers made efforts to change the landscape of Florida, their canals and flood levies are still used today to help tame flooding from hurricanes and storms when necessary.

Visit The Beauty Of Florida

Thanks to decades and decades of development, restoration, and protection, Florida’s natural landscape and wildlife are thriving. These aspects are what make Florida so unique and such a great place to visit. At Vacation Pool Homes, we love our beautiful state and wouldn’t have it any other way. If you are enjoying a stay at one of our Orlando vacation homes or visiting our luxurious Paradise Palms vacation homes, be sure to take a day trip down to the Everglades, you won’t regret it! Just a short drive from our Disney vacation rentals, you can get the family away from the theme parks for a bit and let them enjoy all that our state has to offer. See our available vacation rentals in Florida, and choose Vacation Pool Homes for your next stay!